Miami -5 at Phoenix O/U 196.5
It’s not hard to make a case for betting against the Phoenix Suns these days. My power ratings have seen the Suns steadily dropping for the better part of the last month, from mediocre to bad to bottom feeder. Here in the second week of January, I’ve got the Suns priced in the same range as Philadelphia and LA – clearly the two weakest teams in the NBA – below the likes of other weaklings like Denver, Minnesota and Brooklyn.
The chemistry problems in Phoenix have been on full display for weeks. Head coach Jeff Hornacek saved his job only by dumping several of his top assistants. Quote after quote coming out of the Suns locker room speaks of a team that doesn’t like each other very much and isn’t in position to turn things around anytime soon.
The Suns snapped a nine-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 111-102 win over Charlotte. On the heels of two truly dismal showings – allowing 83 second half points in a blowout loss to the Kings, followed by scoring only 22 points in the first half of a blowout loss to the Lakers. It’s surely worth noting that the Hornets were playing extremely shorthanded in Wednesday’s loss. And it’s also worth noting that there was a fair bit of randomness in that result, as the Suns connected on 19-33 from three point range, with six different players connecting more than one from downtown.
The Suns were still outrebounded in that game, a consistent problem for them all season. They still didn’t get to the free throw line, taking only 13 foul shots, another consistent problem for a team that feels more comfortable shooting perimeter jumpers than driving the lane for better shots since star point guard Eric Bledsoe suffered his season ending injury. They still didn’t force turnovers defensively or keep their opponent from getting good looks at the basket. The Suns streak-snapping victory was nothing more than one of those nights where three pointers were falling in bunches – nothing even resembling a buy sign.
Now the Suns have to come up with a second consecutive good game to beat Miami, with Goran Dragic’s return to Phoenix – where he left under rather contentious circumstances at the trading deadline last year -- providing ample motivation for the road favorite. That’s not the only extra motivation for Miami here.
They had won three straight and nine of their last 13 before a dismal game against the Knicks on Wednesday, a game in which New York hit 56% from the floor, the highest shooting percentage for any Heat opponent all year. Chris Bosh, following the game: "We're not good enough to just come in and show up. We really have to get to our identity, play the way we're supposed to play. You give up 50-plus percent, good things are not gonna happen.... We've gotta get stops, that's what it's about.”
There’s no comparison between these two teams. Miami is arguably the #2 team in the East, behind Cleveland. The Suns are arguably the #14 team in the West, ahead of only the Lakers. The Heat are hungry, coming off a loss, the Suns ‘fat and happy, off a skid snapping win. Very reasonable price to lay here.